By Brad Harter
Remembering the exact age that Megan Miller first embarked on a trail ride while not sharing the saddle with one of her parents would only be a guess, but this early picture of Megan on Dixie would be about the right time frame. Dixie was her brother’s mule which he had broken for trail riding when he was probably around 5 years of age. Megan’s brother was five years older than she was, but he had ridden the hair off this little mule and was passing Dixie down to his sister. Megan trusted Dixie to keep her safe from harm and so Megan’s trailing riding adventures started out on this wonderful little Appaloosa mule. When Megan outgrew Dixie, this great little mule went on to teach a number of other 4- and 5-year old’s how to ride and how to enjoy the trails in SE Ohio.
Megan was probably 7 or 8 years old when she believed that it was time for a horse that she could call her own. Buckshot became that trusted trail horse. The relationship that developed between Megan and Buckshot is almost impossible to describe. It was total trust between a young girl and her horse that had to be witnessed to be believed. Megan could go to the barn, call Buck in and away from the herd, and then spend hours bathing and grooming Buck. Meg even enjoyed tying on an old pair of shoeing chaps and playing that she was Buck’s farrier as you can see in one of these pictures. The picture that accompanies this story of Meg working on Buck’s foot was not staged and captured when she did not know anyone was looking.
By the time Meg was 7 or 8 years old, it was off to Colorado on her first big two-weeklong pack trip. Believing that she had become an accomplished trail rider, Meg allowed her mother to ride Buckshot while she rode a friend’s young Paso Fino. At this point in her life, Meg had become addicted to reading. As you can see in one of the pictures, while loads were probably being adjusted on the pack mules, Meg took the time to enjoy one of the books that she had carried in her saddlebag. This would happen every time that Meg started mowing the yard. It took a few of these viewings until it was learned what was really behind Buck’s mowing fascination. Near the end of the mowing job, the very last area to mow was under some old pear and apple trees. There were almost always a few pears or apples on the ground. When Meg ran over them and was finished mowing, she would always go and pick up the cut apples and pears and then go to the fence where her patient, trusting horse was waiting for the rewards he was about to receive from Meg’s mowing efforts.
As Meg’s trail riding confidence grew, she often enjoyed trail riding with her grandfather. Meg always wanted her grandfather to be on the most trusted and safe mount in the entire herd. That choice was pretty simple. On those rides’ grandpa always had the pleasure of riding Buck while Meg rode Addie, her favorite mare in the family’s herd.
By Meg’s teenage years and after hundreds of miles of trail riding in Ohio and adjoining states, Meg’s real love was riding in the western mountains. During those teenage years, Meg accompanied her father with his college students on many pack trips to both Colorado and Wyoming. Her confidence had grown to the point that Meg believed if you could get a saddle on any young horse, secure that saddle with a britchen to aid in going down the steep hills, then Meg was all game. In the picture that goes with this story, you can see Meg on Buddy, a young horse just moving into becoming a riding mount and moving up from the pack string job duties.
It should come as no surprise that by the time Meg was 17 and graduating high school, she was ready for even bigger adventures on the trail with horses and mules. Meg was hired by the Triple J ranch in Montana as their kiddy wrangler but when the ranch was short-staffed and needed help on a wilderness pack trip, Meg’s job duties quickly changed. For the rest of that first summer and
for the next four years, Meg was the wilderness back county cook having her own string of six mules, a portable Riley wood cookstove, and experiencing the incredible experience to travel and seeing almost all of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
It would be impossible to count the many thousands of miles that this young woman has traveled on horseback all over this beautiful country of ours; certainly, a life experience that no price tag can be put on!